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West Coast businesses help students focus on their careers

West Coast businesses help students focus on their careers

Tourism, building, motoring and retail businesses on the West Coast are partnering with schools to offer work placements or on-site visits as part of the secondary school curriculum. These placements help students get real life experience and better equip them to secure future employment.

Coast Toyota offers ‘tuition’ in its services department offering work placements three times a year for Manufacturing & Technology pathway students.

Chris Doig, the Service Manager at Coast Toyota says they are “absolutely committed” to the work placement programme as it is “an important community contribution”. Chris says that students observe what technicians do, get knowledge of day-to-day activities on the job and get stuck in with hands-on work. “You can tell pretty quickly which ones are really engaged; our current apprentice was introduced to us from a placement.”

Andrea Forest runs Shantytown Heritage Park, which has a museum, steam trains, cafe and function centre. Andrea explains that three of the students who recently came to do work experience on an engineering pathway have been employed – one by Solid Energy, one by the Army and a third by a local engineering firm. “The students who benefit best from the work placements are those with a defined pathway,” says Andrea.

“Getting students into industry as part of their secondary school training is part of the growing and necessary relationship between education and industry,” says Joseph Thomas CEO of Development West Coast. “The capability and capacity of the future work force starts to develop as early as secondary school. Students need to understand the relevance of their learning and development in terms of how this will position them for future employment opportunities. Schools and business need to ensure that what is taught at school aligns with the current needs of employers.”

Andy England, Principal at Greymouth High School says that his school partners with industry in a number of ways - through Gateway placements, visits by industry representatives at school, site visits and through the Youth Guarantee network. “We need even closer ties. We have the capacity to influence the direction of our young people but we want to do it in a way which makes the most sense for their futures.”

John Paul II High School which has 200 students, currently has 19 students doing work placements through the Gateway programme as part of their vocational training. They are placed in a range of industries including building, hairdressing, journalism, early childhood education, and engineering as well as beauty and electrical.

“We want our students to be exposed to as many industries as possible so that they see what is out there,” says Kieran Stone, Principal at John Paul II High School. “What has been an issue is that there are not always assessors available to enable students to earn credits while ‘on the job’. We want to encourage our youth to stay and contribute to growing the region. Introducing them to opportunities in industry while still at school is a way to do this.”

West Coast Trades Academy manager Sarah Caseley says that if students think earlier about the opportunities available to them by doing work placements and following a Vocational Pathway, then they are more likely to have a sense of purpose and motivation.

“One of the ways of encouraging them to do this is by being treated like an adult in the work place with real responsibility while still at school. At our awards ceremony at the end of last year we got local business owner, Jeff Evans from Jeff Evans Plumbing, to speak very honestly to our students about the need for them to take responsibility for their learning and careers and to communicate eye-to-eye with employers.”

Development West Coast and the West Coast Trades Academy continue to encourage education and businesses to work more closely to ensure that what is taught at schools remains as relevant to the outside world as possible, setting students on the right pathways to future employment or further study.


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